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Editorial: Technical skills still offer successful career paths

The bulk of “education” stories the mainstream media reports on today tend to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses, the “necessity” of obtaining a four-year college degree, or the advantages of earning even higher postgraduate degrees – as if those are the only paths to a successful career.

But when something like the annual SkillsUSA Leadership & Skills Conference comes along, we’re reminded that there’s still plenty of good money to be made in what has traditionally been referred to as trade skills. Last week, more than 500 Career Technology Students from around the state converged on Central New Mexico Community College to have professionals from a range of trades judge their proficiency against their peers. Those winning at the state level gain a berth in June’s national competition in Louisville, Ky. Just as importantly, many of the 200-plus judges were scouts for prospective employers who need the workers who have the skills the high school and community college students are acquiring.

The competition included 70 separate events in 55 Career Technical Education fields such as automotive technology, carpentry, masonry, welding and cabinet making – skills that can lead to lucrative careers some just-out-of-college graduates would be hard-pressed to match.

Though public education once embraced technical skills in junior high and high school, the emphasis on trade skills has waned over the years. But events like SkillsUSA are a good reminder that a lot of knowledge and education goes into mastering a trade, and career technical education skills are still highly marketable in today’s economy.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.